Jesus in the Cheese Sauce

The following is a funny story to help you start your week. Those who teach youth group or Sunday School will find this especially humorous.

Last week I was listening to Kyle Idleman on a podcast from Southeast Christian Church. He gave a great message on the upcoming election and some suggestions for Christians on how we should be engaged in it. (You can view the message on the Sermons page of Southeast’s website.)

He told this particular story with the idea that, at times, Christians can force Jesus into everything we say and do. He even commented that when we are in Sunday School, if we don’t know the answer to a question, we should just say “Jesus.”  The answer “Jesus” will at least get you a sticker or gold star.

Here’s the story: He shared about a youth minister he served with in a previous ministry that wanted to talk to his students about ingredients to a good friendship. He decided to use macaroni and cheese as the object lesson and brought the ingredients on stage.

The first ingredient was butter, because butter makes everything better. Butter is kind and encouraging words.  Every relationships needs kind and encouraging words so we should have butter in our friendships.

The second ingredient was milk. Milk makes the macaroni and cheese healthy and milk makes us strong.  We need to have healthy friendships that make us stronger.

The final ingredient he talked about was the cheese sauce. So he had all the students together say “cheese sauce.” Then he had them repeat it louder and faster, “cheese sauce, cheese sauce.” Think about it for a second . . .  You got it, it’s Jesus!  Jesus is the ingredient every friendship needs.

While I certainly don’t argue we need Jesus in our relationships, sometimes we work too hard to find Jesus in the cheese sauce.  Hope that story made you smile.

What Everyone Needs

Over the weekend I was listening to a podcast from Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. They recently hosted a guest speaker from Kenya and the podcast included both an interview with him along with his sermon from that Sunday.

In his message he shared three things that everyone needs.  One of the focuses he has in his church in Kenya is calling the men of his church and country to be better fathers.  Many of the problems they face are due to the lack of involvement of fathers in the lives of their children (sound familiar?).

The three things he focused on were these:

Acceptance – Affection – Affirmation

He made the point that each person needs to be accepted for who he/she is, each person needs affection expressed through words and actions that communicate love and each person needs affirmation through being celebrated.  God has placed that in each person’s heart.

What happens so many times is that people don’t have those needs met.  Either through absent parents or disconnected fathers, children don’t receive the acceptance, affection and affirmation they need.  There is a void in a person’s life when those things are given.  And those unmet needs can impact how a person looks at God.

The good news is that we have a heavenly Father who is able to meet those needs in our lives.  Whether he had awesome parents or absent parents, God wants to love us as a Father.

The speaker also shared these keen insights about our Father’s love.  When we look at our Father, we see that . . .

  • Love has feet – God pursues His children, He runs after us
  • Mercy has arms – Even though we sin, He still loves us
  • Grace has a face – We see the joy in our Father when we return to Him

His message was a great reminder that we all have the same basic needs. Whether from the United States, Kenya or anywhere else, God has wired us to need and search for those three things.  And all of those things can be found in Him – a Father who gives acceptance, affection and affirmation to His children.

You Look Marvelous

I get the opportunity to preach this Sunday. Our Senior Minister decided he needed a vacation with his family (go figure!) so I get to speak.  Our series is called “Be Real” and it focuses on being compassionate, authentic, genuine followers of Him.

One of the things we are focusing on is how we can tend to put more emphasis on outward appearances than the condition of our heart. We put on a show, so people won’t know what’s going on inside.

It made me think of Billy Crystal’s character Fernando.  I remember seeing it years ago on TV and hearing his catchphrase, “You Look Marvelous!”  It was more like “Mahvelous” but I don’t know how to type that accent.

Fernando was about appearance.  It is better to look good than feel good.  How many times have we put on a mask to hide what’s under the surface?  Everything is “fine” even when it is isn’t.  As a church we are striving to be real instead of trying to just look “marvelous.”

The Parable of the Skittles

A few weeks ago I was listening to a sermon podcast of a preacher in Oklahoma and he told “The Parable of the Skittles.”  I thought is was a great illustration about how we view God and what he has given us…plus it was a good excuse to give my students skittles, play games involving skittles and just have a good time using this story.  This is roughly what he shared in his message.

The Parable of the Skittles

There once was a man who had three sons and he wanted his sons to know how much he loved them.  So he took them to their favorite sporting event – a baseball game.

Early in the game he took them to the concession stand.  To further express his love for them, he bought them each a bag of skittles.  The kids said “thank you” because that is what they were supposed to do and they returned to their seats for the game.

As the game continued, the father turned to one of his sons and asked, “Would you mind sharing your skittles with me?”  The son said, “Don’t get me wrong, Dad.  I would love to share my skittles with you, but the problem is that the bag is not very big and the game is probably going to go long and, you know me, I’m not very good at pacing myself.  So, if I have any leftover at the end, I will gladly give you some, but I need to make sure there is enough for me.  Please don’t think I do not appreciate them, but I think I will hold onto them.”  So, the son didn’t share his skittles.

The father was a little hurt.  He then turned to his second son and asked, “Son, will you please share some of your skittles with me?”  The son said, “Dad, don’t get me wrong, I would love to share these skittles with you.  But the thing is that I really like skittles a lot and you are a grown up and don’t really see skittles as a big deal.  But I really, really like skittles and they are pretty important to me so I’m not going to share my skittles with you.”

Obviously the dad is disappointed that two of his sons will not share their skittles with him.  He turned to his third son and said, “Son, would you mind sharing your skittles with me?”  The third son said, “Dad, don’t get me wrong, I would really love to share my skittles with you. The truth is that I love these skittles so much and I love you so much, I am just going to hold on to these skittles.  I’m not even sure if I am going to open them.  I’m just going to hold them in my hands and keep them as a reminder of how much you love me.  I can’t share them with you because I think am just going to keep them.”

The father was pretty disappointed, hurt and upset with his three sons.  When the game was over, he pulled his three sons aside to talk to them.  He said to them, “Here is the problem.  You don’t understand.  What you don’t understand is me.”

“The first thing that you don’t understand is the skittles are mine.  I bought the skittles and you are acting like they are yours!  How dare you, after I worked and made the money and paid for the skittles, you act like you deserve them.

Here is another thing you don’t understand about me:  I am bigger than you and if I wanted to, I could take those from your hand….and don’t think I won’t.

You don’t understand me.  You don’t understand that I could rain skittles down on you.  I could drown you in skittles.  I could buy you more than just one meager bag of skittles.  I could just pour them out and pour them out and pour them out.  Yet you are hoarding them, you are holding on to them, you are trying to stretch them out and make them last.  You don’t understand me.

And these three boys didn’t understand their father.  Because of how they looked at their skittles, all three of them missed an opportunity to understand the goodness of their father.

So, what are your skittles? What is it that God has given to us that we won’t share with Him?